Image credit: Alice Griffin, used with permission
From the high-tech Bio-lux composting toilet, to the more rudimentary but effective Loveable Loo humanure system, going "off pipe"—or actually treating and using your own human waste—has a lot of potential benefits for the environment if done right. But, to gain widespread acceptance, it's clear that using a composting toilet has to be a simple, scalable and preferably pleasant experience. That's why I took note when one enthusiast described her visit to a composting loo as "plush and fragrant". Maybe there is hope for composting toilets to go mainstream after all. Compost Toilets Around the World
Writing over at Permaculture Magazine—whose recent push to offer more online content has included reflections from the Moneyless Man on meat eating and genocide, not to mention a simple recipe for making organic fertilizer—Alice Griffin is an unashamed enthusiast for composting toilets.
Nevertheless, as someone who has installed a composting toilet on her river boat, she was disappointed that many folks turn their nose up at the idea of composting or handling their own human waste. In an effort to change some minds, she's written a mini-tour of composting toilets she has visited around the world—from the tiled and undeniably beautiful Portuguese toilet block pictured above, through a rudimentary cabin in the mountains of Norway (less comfortable, but a useful reminder how simple the technology can be), so a sophisticated-sounding set up involving recycled dumpsters and LPG tanks.
Disgust is in the Eye of the Beholder
With toilets and human waste being such a touchy and culturally loaded subject (remember the controversy when Warren talked about peeing in the shower?), it is perhaps understandable that some people are reluctant to even consider composting toilets as a viable solution. But, as the proprietor of Mill Valley Yurts—location of one of the toilets Griffin visits—explains, many of us find industrial waste treatment processes equally abhorrent:
Owner, Lisa Mudie, likes to ask guests who crinkle their nose at the idea of a compost toilet, "Is it better for your waste to be composted and returned to the ground without leaving our site, or would you rather go down to the beach and swim in it?"
Aesthetics and Experience Matters
Beyond gaining acceptance for composting toilets, this is just one more reminder that those of us who advocate green techniques or technology would do well to keep beauty, affordability, practicality and user experience at the heart of our efforts. As I noted in my lament about ceiling fans being so fugly, it's all very nice that something is good for the planet, but if it's ugly, expensive or difficult to use it will most likely be ignored by the majority population.
More on Composting Toilets
Composting Toilets on the Rise: Are They Coming to a City Near You?
Bio-Lux Composting Toilet: A New Throne For Your Home
An Urban Composting Toilet: It Doesn't Smell. Really. (Video)